Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia's health authority seeks to update doctor wait-list

Nova Scotia Health is reinitiating a campaign to call, email or send a letter everyone on the wait-list for a family doctor or nurse practitioner, to ensure everyone on the registry still needs to be.

Starting Friday, people on the Need a Family Practice Registry will be getting phone calls and emails

Nova Scotia Health is asking people to pick up the phone if they receive a call from an unknown number such as 000-000-000. (Katherine Holland/CBC)

The wait-list for Nova Scotians needing a family doctor or nurse practitioner has reached an all-time high of over 81,000 people, but the province's health authority says the registry may not be accurate.

On Friday, Nova Scotia Health will begin contacting people on the Need a Family Practice Registry to confirm they are still looking for a primary-care provider.

Everyone on the wait-list should receive an email, automated phone call or letter to confirm that their address, phone number and email address are accurate, so family practices can reach them when they are accepting new patients.

Matthew Murphy, who monitors and analyzes the wait-list data for the health authority, said having an accurate and up-to-date list is important. 

"Understanding the exact need of the population around Nova Scotia for access to primary-care providers, and where the largest unmet needs are, helps us tailor specific programs to meet those needs," Murphy said.

Matthew Murphy is the director of performance analytics and accountability for Nova Scotia Health. (Submitted by Nova Scotia Health)

He said the wait-list data is grouped into smaller geographical areas to determine where new programs should be rolled out first.

"We do look and report ... by community clusters and where we see trends of consistent lack of primary-care provision or inconsistent coverage," he said. "Those are areas that we want to provide specific programming and specific outreach."

Murphy pointed to the implementation of virtual health care for people on the wait-list as an example. The program is already active in the western and northern zones, and will be active in the central and eastern zones this month and next. 

Reduction of numbers expected

As people find doctors or nurse practitioners to take them on as patients, or when people leave the province, it falls on the individual to remove their name from the list. This doesn't always happen, and Murphy said this is why the list needs to be updated regularly.  

In the spring, the health authority sent out about 38,000 emails to people on the list, and more than 1,300 people removed their names.

Murphy expects a similar result this time. He said about 42,000 people will be called, and he expects between 1,000 and 2,000 will remove themselves from the registry.

This won't make much of an impact on the length of the list, however, since people are joining the registry at a much greater rate. In October, 5,262 people added their names to the registry, and only 2,334 names were removed.

Murphy said the campaign should be finished in four to six weeks, with another validation planned for next spring.

Nova Scotia Health is asking people to pick up the phone if they receive a call from an unknown number such as 000-000-000.

Murphy encouraged people to call 811 to update their information instead of waiting for the automated phone calls or emails, because it's "the best way to ensure accuracy."

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